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Rider's Almanac Blog

Finding new homes for unclaimed items a 'highlight' for Customer Relations staff

Posted by Drew Kerr | Tuesday, August 8, 2023 8:41:00 AM

Senior Customer Relations Specialist Jeremy Hop in Metro Transit's Lost and Found area.

As a former pawnshop manager, Senior Customer Relations Specialist Jeremy Hop sees the value in used goods. That's why customers’ unclaimed belongings don’t all go in a landfill.  

Smartphones, other electronic gear, sporting goods, winter clothing, eyeglasses, and bicycles left on Metro Transit buses and trains and at stations all get new homes if they are unclaimed. Unclaimed personal items, such as dentures, hearing aids, and backpacks that are too worn, though, get tossed.  

Hop sends smartphones, as well as tablets, laptops, smartwatches, cameras, and the occasional flat-screen TV, to the 911 Cell Phone Bank in Florida, where Metro Transit has been sending items for several years. The phones are scrubbed of personal data and given to victims of human trafficking or domestic violence nationwide so they can call 911.

In the first six months of 2023, Hop sent 736 items, mostly smartphones, to the bank. He may have to increase the shipments to once a week to keep up because a month’s worth can easily weigh 100 pounds.  

“You can tell I’m pretty passionate about being able to offer repurposed and properly recycled devices. It’s one of the highlights of lost and found in my opinion,” Hop said.  

For several years, METRO Blue Line train operator Carl Rice has picked up unclaimed eyeglasses kept in a bin with his name on it in the lost-and-found room. Rice does this on behalf of his Brooklyn Park Lions Club, which sorts, cleans and sends them to an entity that provides them to people in need worldwide.   

“My wife is totally blind, so I try to do my best and help others,” Rice said.   

Metro Transit generally receives up to 30 bicycles a week, of which about only a fifth are claimed by their owners. Express Bike Shop in Saint Paul and Recovery Bike Shop in northeast Minneapolis take turns every week picking up the unclaimed bicycles to refurbish for resale. During the winter, Hop typically donates coats, hats, and gloves to the Salvation Army.

As for the one-offs, such as three plastic kiddie wading pools, a garden tiller, and a Jack Daniels whiskey sign found recently, those can go to the operators who found them or other employees if their owners don’t step forward. Ditto for unclaimed sporting goods, such as snowshoes, skateboards, and hoverboards. Operators check a box when they turn over lost items, excluding bicycles, smartphones and other electronic gear with personal data, indicating whether they want them if they are unclaimed.  

Couriers deliver lost items collected by dispatchers from bus and train operators to Customers Relations adjacent Heywood Garage. Customer Relations employees check the inventory against items reported lost by customers. If an owner’s address is found on an item, Customer Relations mails them a postcard, notifying them that they have 14 days to claim it.   

Customers who receive confirmation that an item has been found must make an appointment to retrieve it. To inquire whether Metro Transit has a lost item, call 612-373-3333, select option 3 or email [email protected].

Star Tribune: For forgetful Metro Transit riders, this team ensures all is not lost